Thursday, May 23, 2024

Michele Daley, of Cambridgeport Place, walks 2-year-old Isaac through Fort Washington Park on Nov. 1, 2005. The park is a likely place for a dog run. (Photo: Schuyler Pisha)

Michele Daley, of Cambridgeport Place, walks 2-year-old Isaac through Fort Washington Park on Nov. 1, 2005. The park is a likely place for a dog run. (Photo: Schuyler Pisha)

No issue at Monday’s City Council meeting inspired as much passion from citizens as the issue of where to put a dog park for people who want to let their pets run free.

Everyone seems to agree dogs need running areas, where their behavior, safety and doings can be regulated.

On the heels of much hyperbole mixed with months of research, one resident, who happens to be running for the council, stood up and shouted:

“It’s draconian laws,” he said, presumably referring to the law that says you can’t walk your dog without a leash in most parks. “It’s contempt for living beings.”

He continued his diatribe at such a decibel level that many of his words were hard to understand. But it was clear that he was advocate for dog lovers — to whom the city should “apologize.”

Councilor Henrietta Davis, while handing out campaign materials at Porter Square yesterday, indicated that the most important thing the council had done was move the city closer to creating a West Cambridge youth center. Dog owners who were not at the meeting begged to differ:

“I want times and places where dogs can be off leash,” the woman told Davis, passing her at the entrance to the T.

The woman, who asked that neither she nor her dog be identified, stressed the importance of having a place where she can take her shepherd and let him run free — without getting arrested. She and other dog owners say there are not enough places to take their dog even with a leash. But with the exception of Fresh Pond, there is no area where a dog owner can let a dog run free, officials said.

“To me it is a legitimate recreational use of public property — like tennis, baseball, or anything else, “walking, or even sitting in the park. We can coexist,” the woman said, after leaving Davis to her campaigning.

The woman said that in Cambridge, “there are some people who just don’t like dogs.”

An immense report by the Cambridge Dog Association, submitted to a committee studying the issue, addressed many of the concerns that might arise among the nondog-loving population. One of the issues was dogs biting people, big dogs “bullying” little dogs, what to call dog excrement and urine — “poop” and “piss” were deemed appropriate, according to one of the documents submitted to the council — and what to do with it.

The anonymous woman, who had approached Davis, said that anyone who would not pick up after his or her dog when the dog is running free would probably not do so if it was on a leash.

Besides, she said, “Dog owners are extremely assiduous about picking up dog waste. And dog owners pressure each other [to comply].”

The recommendations of CDOG included pages and pages of dog etiquette material.

No one at Monday’s meeting opposed the idea of having a dog park. It’s election season. It could have been a rhinoceros run that voters wanted and the matter would have gotten ample consideration.

But Councilor Brian Murphy, who led the committee, indicated that the city really is moving the project forward.

The council ordered city manager Robert Healy to continue Central Artery negotiations to get approval for a dog run on its land.

After the meeting, however, Murphy said Fort Washington Park is probably going to turn out to be the best site, even though it has drawbacks: It is very small and needs gates, according to the committee’s report. Temporary gates installed in 1995 were stolen and never replaced. The site, which is on historic land, would also need special fencing and clearance from the Historic Commission.